Garry Kasparov addresses Forum 2000
The former chess champion calls for new strategies to deal with the rise of authoritarianism
The 20th edition of Forum 2000 continued Oct. 17 with a full day of discussions and events. One of the panels was called the New Era of Authoritarianism and featured Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov as one of the speakers. Former chess champion Kasparov is chairman of the New York–based Human Rights Foundation.
“Every new era requires some new institutions,” he said, adding that the end of the Cold War marked a new era. “But people spent too much time celebrating the victory and became complacent instead of offering new visions.” After Word War II, the US and other countries came up with new ideas to deal with the situation, but failed to do so again in the 1990s. Since no new visions were offered by the West, that vacuum had to be filled by others.
The search for simple solutions also always creates openings for dictators, Kasparov said. Democratic governments have failed to offer solutions for new challenges from globalization. “There is always someone waiting to come out with simple solutions,” he said. Social media, which should be very useful in promoting democracy, has proven to be useful in promoting other things as well. “It is also very good in promoting terrorist networks and promoting propaganda,” he said. But in the long term, dictators cannot offer any solutions, they simply offer short-term policies.
A big problem is complacency, he maintains. Politicians need to communicate back to the people about what people need to do. He quoted US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” he found that attitude lacking in current society.
Kasparov was also critical of policies to for liberal democracies to engage with dictators. “This concept has failed,” he said. He gave Russia as an example, with Vladimir Putin doing things that are unimaginable, yet there are still voices calling to engage with him. “You cannot engage someone who has the opposite interests,” he said. Putin's goal is to erode and destroy all Western institutions, according to Kasparov. Putin is only interested in stepping up confrontation.
Some people say that engaging with Russia's civil society institutions is a way to make progress, but Kasparov disagrees. These institutions only exist when they serve Putin's interest, and cannot be used to make any progress against his regime.
He characterized Russia as a one-man dictatorship. The move into Crimea was the beginning of a genocidal policy against Tatars, according to Kasparov. “Engagement plays into the blatant hands of the regime,” he said.
He also addressed the propaganda machine in Russia, which runs 24 hours a day spreading anti-Western and anti-American messages. The propaganda depicts Russia as a fortress of good surrounded by a world of evil, with Putin as the only defender of the one remaining safe spot.
In response to a question, Kasparov said that Edward Snowden and Julian Assange functioned as stooges of Russia by helping the country in its cause.
Russia wasn't the only threat addressed by the panel. Annette Lu, former vice president of the Republic of China, spoke about the threats of both the People's Republic of China and North Korea. She urged for liberal democracies in the world to support Taiwan in its struggle against the much larger mainland China. The larger China claims to rule Taiwan as well, while Taiwan claims it independence.
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